When Terry Don Buckles boarded an airplane on May 18 to head to Washington, D.C., he was in for a surprise.
He’d waited for years to be on the Honor Flight for veterans, but he didn’t know that schoolchildren from his hometown of Forest City, Mo., had written a stack of letters thanking him for those four years he spent as a Marine Corps corporal in Vietnam – sometimes, he said, “a little too far north in Vietnam.”
“We’re a small community, so I know their folks and grandfolks,” Buckles said of the schoolkids’ letters he read on the plane “Each one of them was touching.”
Buckles was in the Marines from 1964 to 1968, stationed at Dong Ha, the northernmost base and just about spitting distance from the enemy forces. Like a lot of veterans, he’s not keen on talking about what he saw and experienced: “The good memories are when sometimes you get really silly, and the bad ones you try not to remember or talk about.”
Buckles was born in Pawnee and has lived in Forest City since he was 14 days old. He is the grandson of original allottee Gurney Miller of Fairfax and son of Theresa Miller Buckles. His brother, Mark Goad, lives in Fairfax.
After his tour with the Marine Corps working in motor transportation, he drove trucks for 30 years, then worked another 10 for a transportation company, doing maintenance, pushing snow and whatever else was needed.
Fifty-seven years ago, he married his wife, Darith, “an English gal as pretty as she can be,” he said. “Everybody knows she’s the boss.”
They have three children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
“My great-grandson Jackson is the one that they say looks like me,” Buckles said. “I get puffed up every time I say that.”
The Honor Flight to D.C. was grueling – they flew there and back from Kansas City in one day, toured the city and several memorials.
“The highlight for me was seeing the Capitol and the Iwo Jima Memorial,” he said. “The Honor Flight was very well organized. They treated us like kings, they really did.”